The amount of property developed by a company owned by Arizona gubernatorial candidate J. Fife Symington was incorrectly reported yesterday. The correct amount is 2 million square feet. (Published 2/9/ 91)

By most accounts, Republican J. Fife Symington has been favored to win a Feb. 26 runoff election and add the governorship to the string of successes he has achieved since moving to Arizona 22 years ago.

Symington, 45, the scion of a wealthy Maryland family, moved to the state as an Air Force officer and stayed to build his business, the Symington Co., into one of the most successful development firms in Arizona. The company has developed more than 2 million square acres in the state.

A Harvard graduate, Vietnam veteran and political neophyte, Symington won the GOP gubernatorial nomination in a five-way primary last September with 44 percent of the vote. He came from behind in the general election campaign to win about 4,000 more votes than his Democratic opponent Terry Goddard, but a runoff was required because neither candidate received 50 percent of the vote.

Last month Goddard began cutting into Symington's lead by raising questions about his opponent's taxes and business practices and trying to link him with the savings and loan scandal that has taken a political toll on Arizona's two senators, Dennis DeConcini, a Democrat, and Republican John McCain.

Last Friday, Symington acknowledged that he owed $220,000 in delinquent taxes and penalties, and a few days later the Arizona Republic newspaper reported that he had consistently protested the values placed on his commercial properties. Goddard charged that Symington had underpaid his county taxes by $3 million.

Meanwhile, Goddard has not been immune from controversy. The Arizona Republic reported that he had taken $60,000 in salary from his Phoenix law firm in violation of state campaign laws. It also reported that he had under-assessed the value of his home by $900.

Polls released Monday showed Symington with a narrow lead, ranging from 4 to 6 percentage points. But Mark Gearan, executive director of the Democratic Governors' Association, said Symington has "been in a free fall for two weeks," and with the report released yesterday by Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), "the bottom has dropped out of his campaign."

Symington, who was in Washington for a fund-raiser that President Bush attended last evening, denied any wrongdoing and said the report "represents politics at its very worst."

And, he said, "I am confident that the people of Arizona will see this for what it is -- a cheap political ploy -- and will reject it convincingly with their vote on Feb. 26."